Hilary White, Rome Correspondent


‘Wallpaper’ of sexual imagery surrounds children: UK gov’t-commissioned report

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

LONDON, June 6, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Society has become increasingly full of sexualised imagery. This has created a wallpaper to children’s lives,” says Reg Bailey, the chief executive of The Mother’s Union, a Church of England charity that supports marriage and the family.

Bailey was recently asked by Prime Minister David Cameron to conduct a review to examine ways to protect children from sexual exploitation. He found that modern society presents a “wallpaper of sexual images that surround children” and that “parents feel there is no escape and no clear space where children can be children.”

The Mothers’ Union is expected to issue a set of recommendations this week that would give parents the means to keep children away from sexually explicit materials in school, in the media and in retail shops.

“I want to put the power back in parents’ hands so they can better manage the pressures on their children and make it easier for them to bring up their children the way they want,” says Bailey.

Bailey’s report is expected to call for a voluntary retailers’ code that would restrict the sale of “sexy” clothes for children, and an age-appropriate rating system for explicit music videos and a ban on showing them on television before 9 pm. It will also recommend that outdoor advertising with sexually explicit material be kept away from schools and that semi-pornographic “lad mags” be kept out of sight of children in shops.

Paul Tully of the campaign group Safe At School has responded to the Baily Review, saying that the proposals to curb the sexualisation of children should also be extended to ban explicit sex education materials in schools. Tully said that parents are “deeply worried” by the “pornographic and value-lite” sex education materials being used in many schools. He singled out the government-approved “sex-ed” curriculum program, “Living and Growing,” a DVD series used in many primary schools which gives children explicit instructions about sexual intercourse and promotes masturbation.

“Any parent concerned by the raunchy dance routines on TV before the watershed would be appalled if they knew what children seeing ‘Living and Growing’ get in the school classroom,” he said.

Tully addressed a rally for parents and families at Trafalgar Square today, saying, “If the government is serious about protecting children from sexualisation and bad sexual health outcomes, it must address both the widespread sexualisation of culture, and the official sanctioning of illegal under-age sex.”

The Bailey Review also says that parents need more help with blocking their children’s access to internet pornography. “Whilst most parents regularly check what their children are viewing online, and set up parental controls and filtering software, they remain concerned because they are not as internet savvy as their children,” said Bailey.

“That’s why I am calling for a new approach where all customers have to make an active choice over whether they allow adult content or not. This is something internet service providers have told me is workable.”

The report also says that the retail, advertising and video industries should be given 18 months to “clean up their acts voluntarily” or face tougher regulation. To marketing executives, Bailey said, “Photography should feature children in natural poses in a childlike environment, appropriate to the age range concerned. When make-up is used, it should be as natural as possible.”

High Street retailers have come under fire in recent years for carrying padded bras and high heels for little girls as young as three. A number of major British retailers have already signed on to the voluntary agreement, including Marks & Spencer, Next and Tesco, against marketing such products.

The report indicates that parents feel overwhelmed by the bombardment of sexually charged media, but have nowhere to turn to complain. A survey conducted by the reviewers found that nine out of ten parents feared their children were under pressure to grow up too quickly, and four in ten had seen inappropriate material in places where children could see it, but only eight percent had complained.

Responding to the report, Prime Minister Cameron called for the immediate creation of a government website where parents could voice their concerns. Cameron said the Bailey Review represents “a giant step forward for protecting childhood and making Britain more family-friendly.”

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